I’m a formula kind of a gal. I give up or take up things for fixed periods. My longest experiment was a few years ago called, ‘52 weeks of art’, a project which pushed me to produce a piece a week and post it on my then artistic website. Despite all the stuff that was happening in my life at the time, it was a creatively challenging year and in the end, really satisfying to get to the finish line and have a massive body of work.
But for a while I’ve been looking for the perfect formula for my other body, my physical one, to help me commit to exercising more regularly. And I believe I might have found it – thanks to a book that just seemed to fall into my hands at the right time.
Well, I’d been meaning to get back into yoga for a while now and I was feeling a bit down and run down a few weeks ago. I happened to see the book ‘Forty Days of Yoga: breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice’ (by Kara-Leah Grant). Written in a down-to-earth way, it gets you to reflect on why you aren’t sticking to a practice, and with worksheets it gets you to list your own excuses, then you come up with workable solutions and contingency plans. And in doing this, it made me realise how I do in fact have the space, the time, the motivation and a compatible environment to get started.
Importantly it reminded me that the only thing standing between me and my practice is my mind.
So 20 days ago I got back on the mat.
The strategy in this book is simple: you do yoga for 40 days consistently and if you skip a day then you have to start again from day 1.
A brilliant formula and something that’s kept me coming back, because no ways do I want to start all over again!
I know that 40 days straight might seem a little long – but wait a moment – your session can be as little as 7 minutes a day! That’s it. Sounds more do-able now right?
40 days, no less than 7 minutes a day
Now, besides magical 7, there is something to be said about the number 40. It has physiological, psychological and spiritual relevance in many world religions and cultures, as it is said that this is how long it takes for full transformation to complete.
In religion and belief systems, there were all the big names: Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, Moses and Prophet Ilyas, and many others who isolated themselves to fast and pray for 40 days. Let’s take the Hebrew people who roamed in the Sinai desert for 40 years before reaching Canaan, the Promised Land, or Noah’s ark that stayed afloat in the Great Flood which persisted for forty days and forty nights.
In terms of cultural practices, the Hindus and Chinese, like many other cultures around the world, confine a new mother to her home for 40 days after she has given birth. And then most awesome of all is the typical average term of a pregnancy, which if you count from the woman’s last menstrual period – is 40 weeks in total!
Then in scientific jargon, there is something called “cortical remapping”, which is the brains ability to rewire itself. And as you may have guessed, it takes 40 days to realign the neurological patterns in the brain.
With this in mind, many people believe that it takes 40 days to change a habit, to retrain the mental process and nervous system and incorporate it into your being and ultimately transform.
Ultimately though, our brain does not accept ‘new’ data for a change of habit unless it is repeated each day for 40 days (without missing a day).
I’m now at the halfway mark. Just 20 winks to go.
And who’s to say it should stop there?
Maybe I’ll restart another 40 days because, after all, I’m a formula kind of a gal.